Finding a Work Study Job to Suit You

By Patricia Gorden Neill - May 20th, 2013

The federal work study (FWS) program subsidizes part time jobs for college students, usually based on campus. FWS is awarded based on the student’s financial need. The federal subsidy pays half of the labor cost of the job, the employer pays the other half. If you are awarded FWS, you’ll be able to find a job at your college to earn money to offset your college costs. When you get to school, check with the Financial Aid Office for a listing of the available jobs. Besides the FWS, there are also non-federal work study jobs for students who didn’t meet the financial need requirement when they filled out the FAFSA.

While the FWS program focuses on jobs in civic education and community service, all kinds of jobs are available. The jobs listed are on campus and off campus, although the on campus jobs might be more convenient and close by. All the employers in the program realize that your first priority is your studies and classes so they make allowances in your schedule. If you need to study for a major test, it’s likely that your employer will give you the time off you need. The FWS also prefers the work to be aligned with your course of study, as least as much as possible.

All FWS jobs are at least federal minimum wage at $7.25/hour. Some of the jobs, however, offer a higher wage depending on the skill and responsibility level of the position. Students will need to apply and interview for the various positions. Keep in mind that the best jobs go fast, so once you’ve got your room settled, you might want to check in right away at the financial aid office to check the job listings. Don’t put off applying for jobs that appeal to you; they probably appeal to many other students as well. You’ll want to get your classes and job lined up early in the semester.

For the FWS, you can earn as much as you were awarded in your Student Aid Report. The financial aid office and your employer will keep track of your hours and schedule so you receive the amount of money you are allowed to earn. One of the benefits of the FWS is that the amount you earn will not be part of the formula used to calculate your financial need next year. To continue in the FWS program, you have to file the FAFSA every year to obtain the financial aid.

Unfortunately, the federal sequester cuts will affect student financial aid, including the work study program and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, which will be cut by 89.5 million according to a FastWeb report. Either the total number of FWS awards will be cut, or the amount of each award will be less. However, don’t let that stop you from finding a work study job you’ll like.

It may surprise you to realize that many work study students love their jobs and rate them highly as one of the best things to happen to them and their careers. Work study jobs exist all over campus, and off campus as well. If you love community service or volunteering with kids or the elderly, you can find work as tutors, teacher assistants, recreation counselors for developmentally disabled kids or a home health aide for grandparents needing some help. If computers are your thing, you can find work in network administration or tech support. You adore theater? There’s jobs available as cashiers, box office attendants and back stage work during the show. For the outdoors oriented, you can find environmental jobs advising on sustainability and green office conversions. The traditional lab tech, library and food service jobs are there waiting for you, but there’s also jobs working as graphic designers, lifeguards, language translators, public relations assistants and recreation facilitators. You might be able to find work as a research assistant for a professor in your department, though don’t hold your breath. That job would go pretty fast if it was available for an undergraduate.

Whatever your major and your passion, you should be able to find work exploring real world work in a variety of positions. If you don’t like the job you first take on, you can switch to another once you give advance notice. Any job you hold, however, will look good on your resume, as employers like to see people with work experience. Work study jobs, besides bringing in much needed cash, teach responsibility, time management, maturity and getting along with different types of people. Chances are, you’ll thoroughly enjoy your work study job and your preparation for a real life career.

About the Author

Patricia Gorden NeillPatricia Gorden Neill edited medical and scholarly journals for over 20 years in the ivy-covered halls of the University of Rochester. She is a freelance writer, often covering higher education and the concerns of college age students, and is regularly published on a variety of websites.